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Indiana University Graduate Students Continue Efforts To Unionize

IU campus

(Steve Burns, WFIU/WTIU News)

Indiana University graduate students are attempting to organize a labor union for graduate workers. The efforts began in May. 

Through the Indiana Graduate Workers Coalition, graduate workers at IU have previously demanded an end to mandatory fees, which can be $700 to more than $1,000 depending on the department. 

Anne Kavalerchik, a doctoral student in the Departments of Sociology and Informatics, said the structure will be similar to the coalition but as a union the students will have bargaining power. 

“The major distinction is that … we will be able to negotiate a policy or contract with the university,” she said.   

She said part of unionizing in the 21st century is to get the support of an already established labor union. For example, University of Michigan organizers have support from the United Auto Workers.  

Kavalerchik said IU graduate workers are working with the United Electrical Workers.  

“They’re looking to expand their membership and they have a lot to offer us in terms of guidance and resources,” she said. 

The student group is using an IU policy called “Conditions for Cooperation Between Employee Organizations and the Administration of IU,” which provides an official pathway for unionization.  

The policy states employees of the university “have the right, freely and without fear of penalty or reprisal, to form, join, or assist any lawful employee organization.”  

Kavalerchik said graduate students are signing union cards to ask for IU to hold a vote. If 30 percent of graduate workers sign the cards, a vote will be held by IU on recognizing the union.  

The group will be demanding an end to mandatory fees and establishment of a living wage, an effective grievance process and fairness for international students.  

Kavalerchik said even students in the highest paying departments are making less than IU’s calculated cost of living in Bloomington.  

“So right now there are many many departments where graduate workers make under $16,000 a year,” she said. 

The coalition is holding a town hall at 3 p.m. on Thursday at the Conrad Prebys Amphitheater to officially launch the union campaign. 

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